Weather Updates

Bond set at $5 million in murder of ‘bubbly’ student who dreamed of being a cop

Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: March 6, 2013 6:14AM

When Abigail Villalpando didn’t show up for her shift at Denny’s last Thursday, her co-workers, friends and family knew something was wrong.

Villalpando, 18, a senior at West Aurora High School, had worked as a server at the Aurora restaurant for two years.

Ben Richter, the restaurant’s general manager, said she was well-liked by co-workers and customers. “She had several regular customers,” he said. “They liked her because she had that bubbly kind of personality.”

A co-worker called her home, and her family reported her missing.

On Saturday morning, Villalpando’s badly burned body was in a wooded area in Montgomery, according to Aurora Police.

On Monday morning, a Kane County judge set bond at $5 million Monday for an Aurora man charged with murdering her.

Juan Garnica Jr., 18, of Aurora, faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson. He’s accused of beating Abigail Villalpando with a hammer on Thursday at the Aurora home of Enrique Prado, 19. Prado was charged with one count of arson and one count of concealing a homicide. His bond was set at $100,000 Monday. A third man, Jose Becerra, 20, of Oswego, also was charged with one count of concealment of a homicide in connection with Villalpando’s death. Becerra was scheduled to appear at a bond hearing Tuesday morning, according to the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office.

Aurora Police Lt. Bill Hull said Villalpando had known Garnica and Prado for some time, and that the motive for the attack was unknown.

“We don’t really know why it turned to this,” he said.

Along with her brother Ricardo Villalpando, 21, Abigail had moved out of the family’s home and transferred from East Aurora High School to West Aurora High in December. Her dream was to be a police officer, he said.

“We wanted to be on our own, so we decided to move out,” he said. “She was the most hardworking girl I’ve ever met in my life.”

“She was always happy and smiling,” he said. “She was as pure as water.”

“Aby was very bubbly, very enthusiastic,” said East Aurora counselor Karen Pfeiffer, who advised Aby for four years. “She would just drop in and always had something to say.” Pfeiffer said Villalpando at times worked two jobs to support herself.

“Aby wanted to do something with her life,” said April Vega, a close friend of Villalpando. “She wanted to go to college and everything. She wanted so much to do good.”

As soon as she heard her friend had not made it to work, Vega was worried. “That’s just not like her,” she said.

Vega said she had hung out with Juan Garnica and Enrique Prado a few times.

Ricardo Villalpando said his sister had known Garnica and Prado since middle school.

“Those two were her buddies she would always hang out with,” Vega said. “Aby trusted them.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.